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The zookeeper: Stephanie Danzer from Duisburg

Day after day, she faces off with tigers, dodges buffalo horns, and pats camels. Stephanie Danzer doesn't live in wild, exotic countries – she's a zookeeper at the Dusiburg zoo.

Stephanie Danzer

Stephanie Danzer works as a zookeeper

Stephanie Danzer's day starts early; her alarm rings a little before 6:00 a.m. She's anything but a morning person. But the animals in the zoo are waiting for her, and she loves them all. That's why, despite the early hour, she's in a good mood when she leaves her apartment at 6:45 a.m.

stephanie with potatos

Stephanie carries countless crates with animal fodder each day

The 35-year-old has worked more than half her life as a zookeeper at the Duisburg zoo. Tall and athletic, she prefers casual, sporty clothes. And they suit her work, which mainly involves cleaning cages, and is physically very demanding. She also has to cart heavy boxes full of carrots, celery and cabbage to the cages when it's feeding time.

Knowing animals better than people

Over the years, she's learned to read the faces of the many animals as easily as the crime novels that she devours in her free time. Danzer says it's essential for zookeepers to have that skill. It allows her to get along well with her charges, whether birds, bison, porcupines, marabou, rhinos, wild dogs or Siberian tigers. She only has problems with the cranes and two of the lions. “For them, I'm at the top of the menu,” she jokes.

stephanie and camel

Cuddling Camels - Stephanie's favorite animal gets a kiss a day

Danzer loves the big camels most of all, even though she was once almost bitten by a camel. She likes the way they seek the company of humans. “You can touch the camels, and they really start to grin. They come along then with their noses and want to be stroked,” she says.

For her part, Danzer likes to cuddle up next to her boyfriend, Andreas. The couple share a modern apartment with two cats and a dog. Even at home, she doesn't like to be without animals, which she says she likes more than children.

No plans for a family

She freely admits that she doesn't want kids of her own. Her boyfriend already has two grown children from a previous marriage.

Stephanie and Andreas

Standing together despite all odds - Stephanie and her partner Andreas

The couple met through their common hobby – riding motorcycles. It was a passion they shared until two years ago, when Andreas was diagnosed with a nervous disorder. Now, he can't ride anymore, and his motorcycle stands idle in the cellar.

Andreas can't work anymore, either. Instead, he helps his girlfriend out around the house, and prepares the sandwiches she takes to work for her lunch break. But Stephanie Danzer isn't content to let him stay at home. But she has big plans.

In 2011, she wants to travel with Andreas to New Zealand for the rugby world championships. She's saving every cent for the trip, and has even taken on an extra job, working three afternoons a week at a gas station – even though her boyfriend is actually more of a soccer fan.

Author: Debarati Guha (dc)
Editor: Rina Goldenberg

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